As a kid, chewing bubble gum always seemed to me as much a part of baseball as wearing a baseball cap. Published in 2010 in Spitball magazine, this piece seems to agree with me.
The antique gumball
machine tech patted
his little globe dispenser
saying it was “the gum”
that really got each
baseball game started
and helped a fastball
burn hot as a fireplace
front or brought out a
cartridge box boom
at the crack of the bat
or helped the coach
keep up maintenance
on all our game gear
stored in that Nicaraguan
coffee gunny sack
season after season,
so in baseball’s brief
little league time line
it’s the chewing gum
that may be going down
into history with the
chomping rest of us.
Either the pitchers are really, really good, or the other team’s offense leaves a lot to be desired.
Shortly following Lou Gehrig’s retirement from baseball, due to his diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), the Yankees declared July 4, 1939 “Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day.” On this day, Gehrig delivered his now-historic “Luckiest Man” speech to the fans of Yankee Stadium. During that ceremony, Gehrig’s teammates presented him with a trophy, and on that trophy they had the following poem, written by John Kiernan, engraved.
To LOU GEHRIG
We’ve been to the wars together;
We took our foes as they came;
And always you were the leader,
And ever you played the game.
Idol of cheering millions,
Records are yours by sheaves;
Iron of frame they hailed you
Decked you with laurel leaves.
But higher than that we hold you,
We who have known you best;
Knowing the way you came through
Every human test.
Let this be a silent token
Of lasting Friendship’s gleam,
And all that we’ve left unspoken;
Your Pals of the Yankees Team.
Bernadette Mayer is an American poet, writer, and visual artist who has written in a wide variety of genres. This poem was ﬁrst published in The Golden Book Of Words in 1978. The video below is from October 2014, when Mayer visited the Writers House to give a reading with fellow poet Philip Good.
He wears a beautiful necklace
next to the beautiful skin of his neck
unlike the Worthington butcher
Bradford T. Fisk (butchers always
have a crush on me), who cannot even order veal
except in whole legs of it.
Oh the legs of a catcher!
Catchers squat in a posture
that is of course inward denying orgasm
but Carlton Fisk, I could
model a whole attitude to spring
on him. And he is a leaper!
Like Walt Frazier or, better,
like the only white leaper,
I forget his name, in the ABA’s
All-Star game half-time slam-dunk contest
this year. I think about Carlton Fisk in his
modest home in New Hampshire
all the time, I love the sound of his name
denying orgasm. Carlton & I
look out the window at spring’s ﬁrst
northeaster. He carries a big hero
across the porch of his home to me.
(He has no year-round Xmas tree
like Clifford Ray who handles the ball
like a banana). We eat & watch the storm
batter the buds balking on the trees
& cover the green of the grass
that my sister thinks is new grass.
It’s last year’s grass still!
And still there is no spring training
as I write this, March 16, 1976,
the year of the blizzard that sealed our love
up in a great mound of orgasmic earth.
The pitcher’s mound is a lightning mound.
Pudge will see fastballs in the wind,
his mescaline arm extends to the ﬁeld.
He wears a necklace.
He catches the ball in his teeth!
Balls fall with a neat thunk
in the upholstery of the leather glove he puts on
to caress me, as told to, in the off-season.
All of a sudden he leaps from the couch,
a real ball has come thru the window
& is heading for the penguins on his sweater,
one of whom has lost his balloon
which is ﬂoating up into the sky!
This poem is short, but I think sports fans can all identify with it. It’s unfortunate that money has become such a pervasive force in professional sports, but then, I suppose it is the money that makes them professional and not amateur.
Money to the left of them and money to the right,
Money everywhere they turn from morning to the night,
Only two things count at all from mountain to the sea,
Part of it’s percentage, and the rest is guarantee.
I have never seen nor heard anything like the story about Ted Williams in this poem, but I do like the idea behind it. As the author comments, it makes for a great story. This piece by Dudley Laufman appeared in Sptiball Magazine in January 2010.
That time there in Warner, New Hampshire,
game between Bradford and Warner,
someone clouted a drive across the railroad tracks
just in front of the afternoon run
of the Concord to Claremont commuter.
Ump made it a ground rule double.
I think I told you this one,
Arlington – Waltham.
Spy Ponder hits one over the tracks
in front of the 6:15 to Lexington,
Watch City outfielder scoots through the underpass,
comes back waving the ball,
wants a ground rule double,
ump says home run.
Yeah, I told you that one.
But get this.
I don’t know if this is true or not,
but it makes a good story.
The Red Sox are enroute Boston-Providence
for an exhibition game in Pawtucket.
Train passes through Sharon or
some little town like that.
Train whistles along the edge of the ball field,
sandlot game, mix of grubby uniforms,
and someone lines one towards the train.
Ted Williams is standing out on the back platform,
reaches out, snags the ball, and keeps it.
Train rumbles on to Pawtucket,
Williams clutching their only ball.
Next day (the Sox stay over),
train headed back to Beantown.
The boys are out on the field
(they found another ball).
The Kid is out on the platform again,
and he throws the ball back,
autographed by all the Bosox.
This piece is a few years old, but I came across it this morning, and I would say the timing is still appropriate. The weather might still be iffy in spots, but only five days remain until spring officially arrives!
is now underway
oh what fun it is
watching baseball played
the grapefruit league
the cactus league
who’ll make team
and who won’t
get in shape